Our farm has many different components to it. My husband farms crops on about 3000 acres in the Platte River Valley, I care for close to 3000 animals in our cattle feedyard, and we also have some “grass pasture” where we graze cattle during the summer months. We typically graze the pasture from the middle of April to the Middle of June, and then again from the middle of August to the middle of October. Our grass is “cool season grass” so this allows us to get the most effective grazing rotation.
Megan (my nine year old) and I love it when we have cattle down grazing at the pasture because we love to ride our horses down there.
It is an added bonus when we get to check the cattle while we are down there riding. This week it was time to gather the heifers and bring them into the cattle feedyard to finish for harvest. So, Megan and I loaded up Magnum and Dandy and headed down there last Sunday to move the cattle onto the piece of pasture where the corrals are located. This is the first time that Megan has gotten to help gather cattle at the pasture and, needless to say, she was pretty excited!
After we got the horses ready, we opened the appropriate gate and went searching for the cattle. Megan helps me quite a bit at the feedyard handling cattle, but we do most of this on foot. It was new for her to gather cattle and move them while on horseback. As we set out, I told her the rules…
Watch the cattle so that you can read their body language and effectively communicate with them.
- Try to do all movement at a WALK. The easiest way to move cattle is slow and steady.
- Keep the cattle gathered together and moving as a herd.
- Remember to use alternate pressure to influence the movement of the herd.
- Whatever happens, stay calm, use your brain, and focus (don’t get distracted).
“The gather” went wonderfully. It was like a beautiful and coordinated ballet. I was so proud of both Megan and the cattle (and the horses too!). The cattle gathered nicely and walked in a straight line for several miles
before coming to the gate. Megan displayed wonderful patience and focus as we approached the gate, and gave the cattle the time that they needed to figure out what they were supposed to do. She did a great job “taking the time it takes to do it right”. It was a tremendously successful morning—not only did we get the cattle gathered and moved, but my daughter also got to practice being an “effective leader”. One of those “life lessons” that comes with caring for animals and living on a farm—hopefully one that she will keep close to her heart! Now, if I could only
get her to focus that well when I ask her to clean her room…